Johnny F. Bell is one of three children born to Johnny O.
and Margaret Thompson Bell. Born in Wynona, Mississippi, in 1944
he began exhibiting a natural inclination toward the arts at an early age.
By age six, Johnny F. Bell was a student of the arts, taking lessons
from his father on a regular basis.
When the younger Bell was able, he began spending his spare
time working in the lettering and mural
business founded by his father. When Bell graduated from high school
in 1963, he had by his own rights reached a high level of accomplishment
in the arts. He entered Louisiana State College in Pineville as an
art major and married Paulette Capitano Dawson in 1964.
Although Johnny F. Bell studied new techniques and styles and
worked in various artistic media,
he preferred to express himself through the art of mural painting
and portraiture learned from his
mentor and father. So expertly had he mastered the techniques shown
to him that his work, on occasion,
was mistaken for that of his father. The elder Bell himself admitted
that he has come across one of this
son’s works, mistook it for one of his own and wondered that he could
not remember painting it.
The similarities in their styles and techniques extended to
their dream of creating a single oil work on
canvas to represent their beloved state of Louisiana. It took twenty-three
years from the time they began collaborating on the work until “Louisiana”
was named the Official State Painting, but they never gave up
the dream. Johnny f. Bell and his father were able to work interchangeably
on the canvas and, to signify
that the two artists had successfully merged their talents, they
put their names to the finished work on a
single signature line: the son’s middle initial contained within
that of his father’s.
“Louisiana” won the hearts, and the votes, of the state’s senators
and representatives. After passing
through both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Governor
Edwin W. Edwards supported the
choice for the first Official State Painting in America by signing
Act 981 on June 29, 1995.
Johnny F. Bell continues to work closely with his father and
support the family trade. He is highly regarded
for his own artistic abilities and has been commissioned throughout
the United States to complete works of
art for both the private and public sectors.
For his contribution to the state of Louisiana and in recognition
of his exceptional artistic achievements, Johnny F. Bell was named
State Artist Laureate by Governor Murphy J. “Mike” Foster.